Sunday, 16 February 2020

Stripey Cotton Breeches

The last thing I finished in 2019. It appears there's not much to write about it, since I only took 3 progress pictures.

I drafted a new late 18th century breeches pattern early in the year, and wanted to sew them up in a cheap fabric first, just to make sure they fit perfectly before sewing them up in silk or wool. I did do a mockup too, but breeches are so strange and finicky it's hard to be certain until you fully finish a pair. I chose a printed cotton twill from my stash because it has no stretch, and because it was cheap and I have a lot of it. (It's the same cotton I made stripey pants out of in 2015.) I cut them out and let them sit around for the better part of a year before finally finishing them in December.

I based my pattern on the late 18th century ones in The Cut of Men's Clothes, and Costume Close Up. I tried making the side seams perfectly straight and on the grainline, like I'd seen on a number of patterns.
These were mostly machine sewn, except for the hand finishing at the knee and waistband. I can't recall exactly what order I did things in, but I'll be sure to document the construction of the next pair of breeches I make from this pattern much more thoroughly. All the breeches I did before this pair had awful knee closures, and I had no clue how to do the kneebands until getting a copy of Costume Close Up.

As usual, it turned out to be much more simple than what I had been trying to do. Just lining the kneebands and finishing off the lining at the knees as usual, then sewing the kneebands on top of the breeches.
 I did this with heavy linen thread and used a backstitch for the top edge and a whipstitch for the bottom edge.
I made covered buttons with wooden blanks, and did the buttonholes at the knee by hand. I did the ones on the fall and waistband by machine but they were so hideous I ended up covering them in buttonhole stitches by hand too. I guess these aren't really "mostly machine sewn".
I didn't do the fall plackets because some extant breeches don't have them and I wanted to try that, but I much prefer them with the plackets.
 They're lined in plain cotton muslin and I actually put buckram in the waistband this time! I'd been using other stuff in previous pairs of breeches, but for these I finally made some heavy buckram out of cotton canvas. Actually, I think it was stiffened canvas leftover from my 1730's coat.
The waistband is very stiff, but not uncomfortable.
I put pockets in the side seams, which is another feature on a lot of extant breeches that I hadn't tried before.
As usual, it laces in back with 4 hand sewn eyelets and a piece of cotton tape.

 They turned out to fit very well, and I only made one small adjustment to my pattern. I added a bit more to the centre front right around where the fall is, because as you an see it gapes a bit at the edges of the fall.
I used this new pattern to help alter those grey breeches I wore in my 1780's photoshoot! Like all the other breeches I made before this pair, those ones were too loose and much too long. I think I did them that way because I was overly concerned with my ability to bend my knees, but it turned out that didn’t really give me much more movement than when they're properly tight, it just makes them look wrinkly and bad.
 The perfectly straight side seams work surprisingly well, even on my wider than average hips.
The stripes were probably not a good choice of fabric though. I know these were a sort of practice/test garment, but with such wide stripes curving in they really don't look very good when viewed from the front.
What can I wear them for? I suppose they'd be good for hanging out at my uncle's cottage and walking in the vicinity of the lake. Navy & white stripes always look more appropriate next to a body of water.
Or I could perhaps overdye them so the stripes aren't so harsh? That might be interesting.

And now I'm finally caught up on blogging about 2019's sewing! I finished my 1730's breeches recently so will post those next. They're strange and considerably different from these.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Light brown calligraphy print shirt

My second-last project of 2019. 
I was extra thorough in photographing the construction steps, so hopefully this post will be helpful until I make that big 18th century shirt tutorial I mean to do eventually. I've had a number of people ask me about shirt construction and I'd like to have something to link them to by way of an answer in the meantime, so this will be that. A sort of substitutorial I suppose?

The fabric here isn't remotely accurate to the 18th century, but the cut & construction is, at least to the best of my knowledge. I'll add any extra information I think is relevant.

As I've probably mentioned before, I need more practical shirts without ruffles to wear to work, and I also have a lot of cotton in my stash that needs to be used up. 

In May of 2018 I tried making a vaguely modern-ish shirt with the intention of making more like it out of my stash cottons, but it turns out I hate that shirt. It's my least favourite shirt, it doesn't go with any of my waistcoats, and is far less comfortable than my 18th century ones. So if I do make more shirts with stash cotton they'll be cut and sewn just the same as my 18th century linen ones, which is what I did with this shirt.
This fabric is a lightweight cotton print, much finer than a quilting cotton. I bought 3 metres of it on July 30th of 2014 for $5/m (it was in the clearance pile). I know this because I actually wrote it down in a book and included a swatch, which is something I need to get back into the habit of doing. Technically this is a Christmas print, but only if you read the words. I got it because it's neat and looks like old paper, and I will wear it all year round.
For most of my shirts I use plain woven white linen, which is much more 18th century appropriate.

I machine sewed some of these seams with cotton thread, and hand sewed some of them with linen thread from Burnley & Trowbridge.

All the pieces are squares and rectangles. The Cut of Men's Clothes (That link is to a free pdf version) has a nice pattern diagram for an 18th century shirt, and Costume Close Up has one too, though the cuffs aren't quite right since it's taken from a shirt that was altered in the 19th century.

The fabric was 113cm wide and I used 1.73m of it, though I regret not cutting it fuller and using up more of it. I used the method of pulling out one thread and following it, so all the pieces are perfectly on grain. The dimensions of my pieces (seam allowance included) were as follows:

Main body - 65 x 180 cm (could easily go a lot wider and longer. 18th century ones were really long - at least mid thigh length.)

Sleeves - 61 x 45.5 cm (I really wish I'd cut them fuller. A 61x61 square would be good.)

Collar - 20 x 41 cm (This was a little bit tight, and next time I'll cut it a smidge bigger.)

Armhole seam binding bit - 42 x 2 cm

Underarm gussets - 12 x 12 cm

Neck gussets - 8 x 8 cm

Hem gussets - 5 x 5 cm

Shoulder strips - 4 x 19 cm

Cuffs - 20 x 6 cm

I'm 5'9", my neck is 38 cm around, and my wrists are about 16.5 cm around, if that helps. The shirts are very loose everywhere except the cuffs and collar, so there's a lot of wiggle room for how big to make the body and sleeve pieces. The cuffs meet edge to edge, so the finished cuff should only be a little bit bigger than the wrist measurement. More on that later in the post.

Having cut out all the pieces, I folded the body piece in half lengthwise and cut a horizontal slit for the neck hole. I left 15.5 cm closed on either side of the slit, for the shoulders. In the middle of that I cut a 27 cm long slit down the front of the shirt, so I had a T shaped opening. I did a tiny hand sewn hem on the edge of the bosom slit.
(For a lot of my previous shirts I didn't realize the body should be cut in one piece, so I did mine in two pieces and sewed the shoulders up the same amount as I left closed here. If you do this be sure to put the seam allowances for the shoulders on the outside of the shirt, as they will be covered by the shoulder strip.)
The bottom of a slit like that needs something to prevent it from tearing, so I did buttonhole stitches along the bottom part, and added what Costume Close Up refers to as a "bride". I just stitched loosely back and fourth across the gap a few times, and did buttonhole stitches over the resulting bundle of long threads. I've seen pictures of these on a couple of extant shirts, and some have heart shaped reinforcements, and some have both.
In case anyone reading this is looking to make a shirt with ruffles, I will leave some useful links for that. I like to hem and attach my ruffles by hand nowadays, and Burnley and Trowbridge has a nice rolled hem video, and a rolled whip gather video that shows you how to do that. The ruffles should be a finer material than the rest of the shirt.

If you'd rather attach ruffles by machine you'll need to do the front slit ones before attaching the collar, and cut two pieces for each cuff so you can sandwich the ruffles in between. Since I have no better illustration of that method, I'll have to grudgingly link to a shirt post I made waaay back in 2014 in which I photographed all the steps of doing this. I did it by hand on that particular shirt, but since I didn't really know what I was doing I just used the same methods as the previous shirts I'd made by machine. So just do that but with machine sewing instead of backstitching. And here's a link to a quick video on machine gathering.

Oh dear, this post is untidy and not very well organized. But hopefully helpful to people who ask me shirt questions, which is what's important.

The neck gussets are two squares, and I pressed the edges in.
These go on the corners of that horizontal neck hole slit. I topstitched one half of it to the underside of the corner of the slit, then folded the other half over to the outer side of the shirt and topstitched it down as well. This gives you a nice triangular gusset filling in both of those corners, and providing some shaping at the neck.
Here you can see the bottom
The shoulder strips then go over the shoulder, and it appears that's the one step I forgot to photograph, so here is what it looks like on the finished shirt. Basically you just fold the long edges in and stitch them down straight across the middle of the triangular gusset and the shoulder. I topstitched it by machine, but if I were doing it by hand I'd use tiny whipstitches.
(All the stitches on 18th century shirts should be small and sturdy, and all the edges finished, so that it can withstand a lot of washing.)
Oh dear, that is a bit wobbly.
I'm still not used to my new machine.
I was going to attach the collar by machine, but I didn't feel like machine sewing so I did it by hand. I gathered the front and back portions of the neck opening to fit, pinned the collar in place, and sewed it on with linen thread using tightly spaced backstitches.
Sewing the collar on.
The seam allowance of the collar should of course protrude beyond the neck slit hem.

I then pressed the collar up, pressed the remaining 3 edges in, folded it in half and sewed the inside bottom edge down with tiny whipstitches. I sewed up the two front edges with tiny whipstitches too.
Collar folded and mostly pinned down.

Whipstitching the inside edge down.
I gathered the sleeve to a 42 cm portion of the shoulder area (or, 21 cm away on either side from the middle of the shoulder strip) and sewed it on, stopping 1 cm short of the edge so I still had the seam allowance free on the corner. The gathers are concentrated at the top of the shoulder. I added the long strip of binding, also stopping short 1 cm from the edge. The top of the sleeve is sandwiched in between this strip and the shirt body.
The sleeve sewn on and the binding strip added after that.
I did this by machine.
I don't know if this particular bit is accurate, because the shirt in Costume Close Up has a large shoulder reinforcement, which is something you see on some extant shirts but not all of them. I've done a few with shoulder reinforcements, but don't really find them useful because it isn't an area that wears out very fast on my shirts.
This is attached in the same way, just much narrower. I also saw a post about a 17th century shirt where someone simply sewed a piece of woven tape over the gathered seam allowances here, so that would work too.

I folded in the seam allowance on all 3 side of this strip and hand stitched it with more tiny whipstitches.

Next it was time to put in the underarm gussets! These can be sewn in by machine, if you go slowly and carefully, but I did it by hand.
At this point the body and sleeve of the shirt form a right angle in the armpit area. I pinned one side of the gusset into this area and backstitched it on, leaving about 1 cm of seam allowance. The neat little backstitches should be on the square part, not on the sleeve/body side of the seam, so that when you finish this seam later the long messy side of the backstitching will be hidden.
Tightly spaced backstitches in linen thread.
Here I will add a backlit photo of an earlier shirt I made, to better illustrate what's going on here.
Not a very good photo, but you can see where the gusset goes in.

After stitching in the square on the armpit corner on the other side, it's time to sew up the sleeve and side seam. Again, I leave about 1 cm seam allowance, or a little more. I did these by machine, leaving 10 cm open at the ends of both the sleeve and side seam. One is for the cuff opening, and the other is to make the bottom of the shirt easier to tuck in.
Extant 18th century shirts appear to have more of a slit at the bottom than my comparatively small shirt, so if you've cut yours to proper huge 18th century size I'd suggest leaving closer to 15 or 20 cm open at the side seam.
On the sleeve seam, I clip the seam allowance about 1 cm in from where the cuff opening starts, which I hope is clear enough in the below photo. I trim down one side of the seam allowance on the long seam to about 4mm, and then I fold in the corner nearest the cuff slit like so:
I press the seam allowance down flat so that the wider one covers the narrower one, I fold the edge of that wider one under, and stitch it down. This is a bit tedious to do by machine because you have to carefully bunch up the sleeve around your sewing machine foot as you go, but it's doable. We'll come back to that cuff bit later.
I sew up the side seam of the shirt body the same way, with the 10 cm bit left open at the bottom, and finish the seam allowance in the same way. On this one there's no need to fold that little corner in though, because it'll be covered by a hem gusset.
Now that the side and sleeve seams are all finished, we can finish the edges of those underarm gussets! Press this area nice and flat (preferably over a tailor's ham) and trim the seam allowances of the body and sleeve pieces next to the gusset. I folded the seam allowance of the gusset down and they covered all the end bits of the adjoining seams very nicely.

(For a truly shameful number of shirts I was doing this the other way around, which not only took longer and looked messier, but it made the shirts very weak at the corners of the gussets and nearly all of them ripped and needed to be patched there. Don't do that! Fold those underarm gusset seam allowances outwards!)
I can't seem to decide between a "how-to" voice and a "this is what I did" voice for this post, but I guess that's ok because this is only kind of a tutorial.

I sewed these edges down with more tiny whipstitches.
Very neat and tidy and sturdy!
Here's what it looks like from the outside, though it's a bit difficult to see with the print.
For the 10 cm opening in the side seam I folded the edges in twice and sewed them by machine, and then I did a wee little hem along the bottom edges in the exact same way. I'd do these with more tiny whipstitches if I was doing it all by hand.
Much like the neck gussets, the small squares for the hem gussets get their edges folded in and then are folded in half. These I whipstitched onto the split at the bottom of the seam, on the inside.
And some whipstitches on the other side were necessary to secure the little forked bit.
Hem gusset from the outside.
This looks much nicer when it's white thread on plain white fabric...
For the opening on the sleeve seam I folded the corners in on the part where I clipped, then folded the seam allowances under and whipstitched them down.
A better view of the cuff opening.
Clipping the seam allowance allows you to fold both to one side on the seam
and one in each direction on the opening.
Clipping it a bit past the beginning of the seam makes it a bit more sturdy.
I had originally cut the cuffs a bit too big, and trimmed them down a bit when I was sewing them on. 18th century shirt cuffs were very narrow until the very very end of the century, as far as I'm aware. In most cases they appear to be as wide or only slightly wider than the sleeve buttons.
I pressed in the ends of my cuffs before sewing them on, so I could get them the right length. I make my cuffs 1 cm longer than my wrist measurement (and I don't add ease when I take the wrist measurement), so that they're snug but have a little bit of ease. I find that they loosen up with a bit of wear and washing too.
I gathered the ends of the sleeves with 2 rows of running stitches and backstitched the cuffs on, sewing from the cuff side where it was easier to follow a straight line.
I folded down the other side of the cuff twice and whipstitched it on, closing up the ends with whipstitching too.
I hand sewed a rather ugly buttonhole on each end of each cuff (and 2 on the collar) with DMC cotton pearl. I cut the buttonholes with a small chisel, overcast them to keep the layers from slipping around, then sewed them with a buttonhole stitch.
I mentioned making 18th century sleeve buttons in a previous shirt post, and it's pretty easy. I just bend a large jump ring into an elongated oval shape and put 2 metal shank buttons on it.
For the collar buttons I used two Dorset wheels I made ages ago for some other project. They were white but I stained them with some tea so they'd match better.
I can't speak with any certainty on this because there are so few extant shirts where I can find high resolution photos of the buttons, but generally it appears that the ones that have Dorset wheels are early 19th century or very late 18th, and for most 18th century shirts they're bird's eye or Dorset knob buttons. In a lot of 18th century portraits where you can see the buttons they appear to be small and round. But again, that's just what it looks like to me from a pretty small sample size of shirts.
This was supposed to be "just a quick machine sewn project" but it's about 50% hand sewn and it took 19 and a half hours. I just really like hand sewing.
The collar was a bit too tight at first, and I had to move the buttons. It's rather embarrassing that I cut so many pieces a slightly different size than I should have, but this time I wrote all the dimensions down as I was cutting, so next time I'll adjust them as necessary.
Even though I wish I'd made it bigger, it's a good everyday shirt, and it goes really well with the brown waistcoat I wear to work most days.
Ok, that concludes this mess of a shirt tutorial-ish-thing! I don't know when I'll finish the nice proper 18th century shirt tutorial, but it will be a while. I want to include hand and machine options for each step, so I'll have to hand sew an entire shirt and machine sew another while taking lots of photos.

I've been wanting to do tutorials for a while now, but have been feeling rather insecure about it because I'm self taught. Not insecure about my skills, I know I'm good at sewing, but about my knowledge base.
What things do I not know? Are there super obvious important things that I don't know? I have no idea! I've spent a very long time learning what I can from books and the internet, but have never actually met any professionals, and have never even seen a single extant 18th century garment in person.

I'm fine with documenting my projects and what exactly I did to make them, but writing in a "how to" sort of voice? I worry that I'll get some little detail wrong, which I don't want to do if I'm presenting things as historical, but I feel silly about worrying about that because I'm doing my best! (I didn't feel this way about the fall placket tutorial because it's a quick machine sewn one. I don't know how the actual 18th century ones were made because neither pair of breeches in Costume Close Up has that kind of placket.)

I tend to worry about being judged by reenactors, which is... weird because I'm not a reenactor. And even more weird because I've never been harshly criticized by one. (I've gotten some unsolicited constructive criticism, which can be annoying, but I usually don't mind it much.) I have no idea why this is a thing I worry about.

But, as Brann pointed out, even if I don't get the tutorials 100% perfect it'll still be much better than the nothing that's out there now. And he's right! It's unbelievably hard to find detailed construction information on 18th century menswear on the internet. You have to spend ages scraping together all these little bits of information, and even then you'll miss a lot if you don't have any reference books. Costume Close Up is a fantastic book that I always recommend, but even it is lacking in some very crucial information in the shirt chapter because of the way the featured shirt was altered in the 19th century.
And it only goes as early as 1750. I've found next to nothing on making early 18th century menswear, aside from some patterns in The Cut of Men's Clothes which come with no construction information.

I've had multiple people send me messages asking questions about getting started on 18th century sewing, which delights me! I love seeing more people getting involved in my Very Favourite Thing!
But most of the time there just aren't tutorials out there for me to direct them to when they ask, so the best I can do by way of an answer is to post a lot of pictures and type it all out, link to one of my own blog posts, or (for more general questions) recommend a few books.

I've often lamented the fact that so few people sew Fancy 18th century menswear, but perhaps more of them would if the necessary information was more readily available.

My sewing has gotten so much better in the past year, and I finally feel like I have a decent understanding of 18th century tailoring, so I will make some tutorials. With an emphasis on how "This is the way I do it but there are many different ways to do things, so maybe you will want to do it differently, and also I may be getting some things not quite right." And I'm making an effort to be more thorough with the descriptions and photos of my construction process.

I also mean to put together a masterpost of links and whatnot so I can have everything I've ever found useful all in one place. (I've got a rough version of that post up already and I need to organize it better, add more stuff, and post it here.)
Ok! Finally finished the darn shirt post! Now I just have to post the breeches I finished in December.

Friday, 24 January 2020

2019 in Review

Time for my 7th year-in-review post!
I've been a little slow with the blogging (and this post is late), and I still have two more 2019 garments to post about, but I think my posts have gotten better and more detailed this year.

In early spring I got a new job, doing alterations for a suit store. In November I moved out of my parents house and now live with a friend from school. (In my surface design stuff post from 2017 I have a picture of some muslin with silly dye paste doodles all over it, and my roommate is the classmate I did that with.) It's a small apartment, and sadly I couldn't bring my big work table, but I managed to squeeze most of my fabric & sewing stuff into my room.

I've gotten so much better at 18th century tailoring in the past year, and so I've put more effort into posting about the construction techniques. I'm really prod of how much I've improved!

Here's everything I made this year, in order:
My black and silver "practice" waistcoat has some fit issues and is a bit too short for 1730's, so I'm very glad I did it before cutting into my good quality brocade. I do really like the pictures I got of it though!

(Around this time I also did some costumes for a theatrical production, but didn't take photos of them because they were very quick and involved horrifying things like elastic and velcro. I did 2 large capes, 2 petticoats, 3 ruffled shirts, 3 neck stocks, and 3 red waistcoats. I also helped make clothes for a few marionette puppets.)
I still haven't got any good photos of this black corduroy coat, but I wore it a decent amount in the spring and fall. It was an unfinished project I had started about 2 years ago and it's chock full of regrettable choices (both in materials and construction).
I find when walking up stairs it's just a little too long, and when walking in general the lower part of the lining and the corduroy facing are too clingy, but it's still comfortable and very flattering.
A second flannel undershirt, which is nice and warm! I especially like wearing it around the house. It's quite comfortable to sleep in, and in the winter months I never want to take it off, so I should make more of them.
A shirt where I finally learned the nice & accurate way to attach fine ruffles! I like it a lot and have worn it a decent amount.
I made this brown wool waistcoat in March with the intention of getting a lot of everyday wear out of it, and boy have I ever! I've been wearing it at least 4 or 5 days a week this winter. (I don't like wearing my silk waistcoats to work - I have to use a supercrease machine and I do not want to get that rubbery goo on my fancy stuff.)
Piecing, piecing, wonderful piecing!
Piecing on the back, piecing on the front, and there's piecing on the lining too.
It was nice to use up some more of those old wool bits, and I love my linen cabbage back. It makes me feel so historical and economical, using up little scraps like that. I should make some more plain wool waistcoats, so as to have a bit of variety. And a sleeved one would be good, because the backroom in which I work is rather cold.
The monster outline, flowers, and dark specks of dirt are embroidered.
The rest is fabric ink, except for the gold bits, which are beads.
A painted & embroidered monster friend on a bit of cotton, with some shiny beads. He's currently tacked to the wall in my mother's studio.
A ruffly bed jacket. Another thing from The Pile that I finally finished! I intended it to be worn over sleeveless nightgowns in warmer weather, but I only have one sleeveless nightgown and it's wearing very thin and has some holes, so this hasn't gotten much wear at all.

I made a simple stuffed cotton fish for a friend around that time too.
A neck stock. Not blogged, because I didn't take any progress pictures, but I'll post about it next time I make one. It seems the sort of thing you ought to have multiples of.
My 1730's coat! I love it and am very proud of it!! I'd do the buttonholes a bit differently, but overall I think it came out great. Still no Fancy photos of it, but I'll see to that once I finish the breeches (which are coming along nicely). It was my first time doing a coat with proper 18th century construction methods, which I very much enjoyed. 100 hours well spent.
I made a simple watch chain this autumn too.
I love my black & white 1790 coat too! I think it's one of the best things I've ever made. Why I was inspired to make two wool coats in quick succession in the summer I have no idea, but I'm very glad to finally have a couple of nice coats. And to have finally made something with big fancy deaths head buttons, which I've admired on extant coats for so long.
And I actually did a photoshoot for once!
I'm pretty happy with my yellow striped silk waistcoat, but somehow it ended up wrinkly in the shoulders. I've had this problem with previous collared waistcoats, and I drafted a whole new pattern but they still came out a tad wrinkly. Next time I must do more basting and fitting before sewing the collar on.
Tiny little 2 coloured deaths head buttons!

I made a pair of simple felted slippers in bright green wool, which I didn't post about. They're made the same way as the monster ones (long since worn out). Just wet felted merino with a rubbery sole, for wearing around the house. This is the only photo I have of them (taken by my roommate) and I'm posting it instead of taking a new one because it's a nice picture of my roommate's dog.
His name is Ares and he's a very good boy. Much more quiet and polite than most dogs.
Finally, finally I made a 1730's waistcoat with that vintage piece of silk! I'm very pleased with it. (though as usual, the buttonholes could have been better.)

In December I made a printed cotton shirt, and the post about it is my most thorough 18th century shirt construction post so far.
And the last project of the year was these striped cotton breeches. I started them months and months ago and only finished them up at the end of the year. They were a test run of the new breeches pattern I drafted, just to make extra sure it fit before I made it up in more expensive material, and aside from needing a slight adjustment to the centre front they fit very well. They look pretty bad in such huge stripes, but I wanted to see the grainline clearly.

And that's it! Not exactly a huge number of garments, but a lot of them are very big time consuming ones, so I'm rather pleased.

Hmm, what else happened this year. I made a fall front placket tutorial which at least a few people have found useful. I also put together a post of 18th century menswear resources, which I need to organize better and post on here. I learned that you don't need to have a mobile device in order to post on instagram (though posting from a computer is a bit more limited), so I made an account there because it seems like that's where most of the historical sewing people are.

I posted some very specific memes about historical sewing and was shocked by the number of notes they got. A few people whose work I admire told me they admire my work, which was very exciting! I did a lot more hand sewing because I really like it. I bought a sewing machine around the time I moved out, but haven't used it very much.

My hairstyling skills improved a lot! (Thanks largely to that AD beauty guidebook.) Here's a 1770's hairdo I did in July.

Oh, I also got an embroidery frame! Not buying fabric this year meant I could spend some money on an embroidery frame, a couple of nice reference books, and a pair of shoes.
In September I did a residency at King's Landing which consisted mostly of me sitting in an empty room working on my waistcoat embroidery, and it was nice and I got a lot done. (I also got to go examine some things in the collections, which I should do a post about.)
Remember that embroidery sample from my 2018 in review post? I'm working on a waistcoat of that! I started on a homemade frame, but found it so awkward that I decided to invest in a proper one with rollers. I got mine from this etsy seller, but I think this is the original manufacturers site.
My frame with the partially finished waistcoat.
It's big and my room is cramped, so I have to fold up my ironing board in order to get it out and work on it.
I'm working away on that slowly, and will post more about it later.

I did a couple of alterations I had been putting off for ages, so things would look nicer for my 1780's photoshoot. I took the pleated ruffles off that shirt I made in 2018, removed the facing on the front slit, lengthened the slit a bit and gave it a nice rolled hem. I made new ruffles out of book muslin from Wm. Booth Draper (Beautiful stuff, 10/10, highly recommended!) and attached them with a rolled whip gather. I put them only on the front slit because I was in a hurry, but I might go back and add some to the cuffs too. I tried making a pleating board but I couldn't get it to work for the tiny little pleats, so I ended up doing them individually by hand, which is very tedious considering they wash out.
I also shortened and tapered those grey wool breeches from 2018. They were much too long, and a bit too loose around the knee. I shortened them by about 4 cm and now they're much better.

In my 2018 in review post I wrote out a list of goals for 2019, so lets see how I did with those.

"Finish the 1730's outfit. At the very least I'd like to get the coat, stock, and breeches done." Almost! I did the coat, waistcoat, stock, another shirt (one of 3 I now have that work for 1730's) and am currently about halfway through the breeches. I see I didn't list waistcoat on here, and I'm guessing that's because I had only just finished the black & silver waistcoat and hadn't yet decided it wasn't good enough to go with the green coat.

"Try crewel work. Even if it's just a sample or two." I did do that! It was just a sample, but I like it very much and I mean to do a waistcoat eventually.

"Finish that damn black wool coat that I started over FOUR YEARS ago." I... did not do that. I did start working on it again, but then I tried it on and realized that in the now 5 years since I drafted that pattern my proportions and posture have changed so much that it's never going to fit me, which really killed my motivation. It's very very close to finished, so I still should finish it, and either donate it to a theatre or give it to someone the right size & shape.

"Finish some other things from The Pile too. And ponder what to do with those few projects that were started very very long ago that I will never finish and have no use for." I finished the corduroy coat, the ruffly shirt, and the bed jacket, which were unfinished things from The Pile.
But I don't think it's much of a priority to try to figure out what to do with the maybe 4 or 5 unfinished projects I have from many years ago, because I'm so much better at sewing now, and am unlikely to finish most of them. I may repurpose the bits of them for something, but until then they can just wait in a box and I shan't worry about it. I think Cathy Hay makes a good point about clearing the deadwood from your project pile.

"Not buy fabric. (unless I need a little bit of lining or something to finish of a project) This is going to be a very difficult one, but I am determined to not buy any new fabric this year." It wasn't actually very difficult! I sewed entirely from stash fabrics this year, and found that it was actually really nice to finally sew up the things that I've been imagining. In January I went to a fabric swap and got rid of an Ikea bag full of fabric I had no use for, which made a nice dent in my stash.
I got a lot better at resisting new materials, thought a whole lot more about my stash fabric instead of other stuff, and went to the fabric store a few times for thread and left with thread and nothing else. I did buy 1 yard of green wool for the 1730's breeches because I didn't have enough coat wool left, but that was ok because it was needed for a complete suit.

So I made it 359 days without buying fabric, and wasn't even very tempted to do so. But then on Christmas night I made the mistake excellent choice of scrolling through a dazzling array of discounted secondhand silk obi on Ichiroya, and I found two that were amazing and perfect for early 18th century, and I had to order them immediately because they may not have been there 6 days later.

Now, normally I'm very good about doing without things. "I just had to have it" is a sentence I never utter.
But look at them! Holy crap!!
Gloriously huge asymmetrical repeats the likes of which I have never seen on any modern brocade!
Would you believe that each of these cost me CA$24?
They were the most expensive two, and the cheapest one I got was $8!
So I ordered those, and a few others that are also decently 18th century appropriate. I'll post more about them later. Technically this means I broke my resolution to not buy fabric, but that's ok. This not-buying-fabric thing was about managing my stash better, and this was a very good choice for my stash.
The obi I made my 30's waistcoat out of is the only piece of silk brocade I'd ever owned in my life, and now I have a few more pieces of brocade! And I have fairly specific plans for them. So all in all I think I did a good job not buying fabric.

"Another Nelson undershirt, maybe a pair of flannel drawers, and a new pair of felted slippers." Did the undershirt, did the slippers, but didn't do drawers.

"Since it's the thing I did the worst on last year - more accessories." Wow, I did even worse with accessories this year. In 2018 I made a pair of gloves and a queue bag, and in 2019 I only made a stock. Oh, I suppose I did assemble that decorative watch chain too. Still, that's so little! I did start a pair of gloves and a neck cloth this year, but haven't finished them.

"Draft a new breeches pattern that fits well. And do better with drafting in general." I did draft a new late 18th century breeches pattern, and it fits! And then I used it to make an early 18th century breeches pattern. I did much better with drafting new patterns. I had to, because my old ones just don't fit anymore. That surgery I had a little over a year ago improved my posture so much that all my waistcoats from before that gape really badly across the chest. I can't remember exactly, but I think I drafted at least 6 new patterns in 2019.

"Ugggghhhh alterations." Did a few small ones, as shown above. I still have a few that need doing, but not many. I now do alterations as a job, and somehow I don't mind altering the suits from the store, but I still dislike altering my own stuff. I don't hate it as much as I used to, but there's still that troublesome feeling of "I finished this project, it is done! No more working on it" that makes it hard to go back and fix stuff. It was good to make those grey breeches fit nicely though, and to make that shirt more presentable, so hopefully I'll get a few more things altered in the new year.

"Sew with a plan rather than sewing lots of individual things that don't go together." I think I did pretty well with that! I ended up with a nicely coordinated 1780's/90's outfit, am almost finished a 1730's outfit, and my dark brown everyday waistcoat goes very well with my light brown everyday shirt.

"Do at least half of the 2019 Historical Sew Monthly challenges." Yes! 7/12, same number as 2018, but I did a lot more big projects this year. In 2018 I submitted some very small things, but this year they averaged 50 hours. The striped yellow waistcoat was my quickest submission at just over 25 hours, and the green coat was my longest at just over 100.

There are things I could have done better on, but generally I think I did pretty good in 2019!

Now, goals for 2020. I think I ought to focus these mostly on work habits and things that aren't specific garments. I have a lot of plans for things in my stash, but no idea what order I'll end up sewing them in.

  • Work on a bit of sewing before going on the computer, especially on my days off work. I find this makes a big difference in how I spend the rest of the day.
  • Try to have a better sleep schedule. That's also something that really affects how much sewing I get done. Currently I am doing a rather bad job of this.
  • Try metal embroidery, even if it's just a small sample. I've wanted to do metal embroidery for so long, and now I have a frame and don't have to worry about destroying it with a hoop!
  • Continue to use mostly stash stuff because I still have a lot to sew through. Buying a bit of fabric is ok, but I should do it only if I have plans for it. And try to not look at fabric selling sites unless I need something to finish a project, because pretty fabric has a way of making specific plans spring to mind immediately...
  • Buy a pocket watch, because somehow I still don't have one.
  • Make a video about death's head buttons! And hopefully other sewing videos, but deaths head buttons are probably the thing I've been asked about the most. I've never made videos before, but having recently discovered Bernadette Banner I realize that it's a fantastic medium for conveying sewing techniques. For the past 7 years I've been trying to document my sewing techniques here, but blog posts with still pictures are rather limiting for certain things, so I would like to learn how to film stuff too.
  • Do sketches of things before sewing them. It's not really necessary for my design process, but I don't draw or paint nearly as much as I should.
  • On that note, keep better records of projects on paper. I write the time and materials and everything here on my blog, but I should be putting it in a binder too, with swatches.
  • Keep track of exactly how much fabric I buy and how much it costs - also in a book with swatches.
  • Make an 18th century shirt tutorial. I've been meaning to do one for a while now, and I think I have a decent enough grasp on the construction to finally do so. It's something the internet is lacking!
  • Finish and publish those other posts that I have saved in drafts. There's one about buying less fabric, one about lots of weird extant waistcoats, one where I look at old projects and say what I'd do differently, one about the stuff I saw in the King's Landing collection, how I draft patterns, and of course the big resources post. I also still haven't posted those photos from the June 2018 road trip. Oh dear.
  • Do as many of the 2020 Historical Sew Monthly challenges as I can. I don't know if I'll get all of them done (I have no idea what to do for "Local" and may end up having to knit something) but since they've done away with deadlines this year it'll be so much easier to do more of the challenges! They're still posting inspiration posts monthly, but we can do the challenges in whatever order we want!
  • Finish the 1830's patchwork dressing gown.
  • Finish the forest floor embroidered waistcoat.
  • An extravagant 1720's suit, hopefully? I have most of the materials, and am feeling very inspired to do early 18th century right now. Plenty of other stash materials that could jump up and demand attention instead, so we'll see.
  • Maybe if I don't say "more accessories" then I'll actually do them this time?
  • I think this list is long enough now but one last thing I should mention is make some nightgowns. I really need nightgowns. All mine wore out ages ago and I've been meaning to make new ones forever, and it wouldn't even take very long.
Okay! That's a lot of things, and hopefully I'll do a decent portion of them.
Now I should get to writing up those last two 2019 garments!